TOKYO -- Even though the Red Sox were allowed to bring 30 players to Tokyo for the first two games of the season (not including Curt Schilling), the team is allowed just 25 on the active roster and three more designated as inactive, with those 28 players all eligible for the 25-man roster once the Red Sox head back to the States. Team sources indicated Monday afternoon that Tim Wakefield, Sean Casey, and Mike Timlin were likely to be the three inactives. Jed Lowrie and Bobby Kielty are expected to be the two extra players.
Wakefield pitched in Sunday's exhibition, which renders him unable to pitch in either of the first two games. Casey and Timlin are both injured. Casey came off the plane to Tokyo with a stiff neck and Timlin got two stitches on the ring finger of his pitching hand on Wednesday. None of the inactive or extra players is allowed to be in uniform for either of the two games.
Two moves will need to be made for this to happen. Kevin Cash's contract will be purchased and Josh Beckett will be placed on the disabled list retroactive to March 19. That means Beckett will be eligible to come off on April 3, the off day between series in Oakland and Toronto. Beckett pitched two innings against Double A hitters on Sunday morning in Fort Myers, Fla., and will have to be brought along slowly back from his lower back injury.
Timlin will be reevaluated in Los Angeles, and the possibility remains that he might also have to go on the disabled list.
For now, the Red Sox will keep three catchers on the roster: Jason Varitek, Dusty Brown, and Cash. They will also have eight pitchers in the bullpen for the first two games, plus Clay Buchholz. Buchholz will only be available for the second game, in which he would be pitching on three days' rest, and would only pitch in an emergency situation.
Kielty has an out clause in his contract that allows him to leave the team at the end of spring training. That date comes up at the end of the month, after the series in L.A. If he is not added to the roster by then, he can sign with another club. Kielty expected his spot on the roster to be contingent on a trade of Coco Crisp, but Crisp remains on the roster, his trade value having sunk because of his groin injury and the inability to showcase him.
World Baseball Classic
Major League Baseball announced the four sites for the first round of the 2009 World Baseball Classic on Monday. Round 1 will be held at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo; Estadio Foro Sol in Mexico City; Rogers Centre in Toronto, and Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan.
The pools have changed from the first year the WBC was played, in 2006, when it was won by Japan. China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and South Korea will play in Tokyo; Australia, Cuba, Mexico, and South Africa will play in Mexico City; Canada, Italy, the United States, and Venezuela will play in Toronto, and the Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama, and Puerto Rico will play in San Juan.
The first round will be double elimination with a cross-over in the semi-final games, both of which are format changes from the first WBC.
"The excitement in the arenas that we played in was far beyond what we imagined," said Varitek, who attended the press conference along with teammates David Ortiz and Alex Cora plus Oakland's Rich Harden and Huston Street. "The experience was phenomenal. The excitement was phenomenal. The level of play was phenomenal. It was just overall an exciting time and I would encourage any of the American players to play."
Though manager Terry Francona declined to reveal his lineup for the first game of the season, it is unlikely that it will change much from the exhibition games. That means Dustin Pedroia is likely to lead off, with Kevin Youkilis batting second. Jacoby Ellsbury is expected to be hitting down in the order, at least to start, with the possibility that he could move up in the lineup if he performs well to start the season. ... If it seemed odd that Doug Mirabelli was in the lineup before being scratched and released last week before a spring training game in Fort Myers, Fla., that wasn't an accident. It was, of course, already determined that the catcher would be released before the game. But in an effort to make the news -- which found Tim Wakefield "shocked"-- easier for Mirabelli, Francona inserted him into the lineup before the game. That way when the players headed out to the field to begin preparations for the game, Mirabelli could be held back and informed of the decision. He then was able to slip out of the ballpark without having to immediately face his teammates ... Though Crisp said he has been physically tired in Japan, he also said he is 100 percent at this point. He has not yet had any conversations with Francona or the team yet about his role ... The Red Sox held their traditional team meeting before the first game. Among the topics was the fan base, "how people seem to care about the Red Sox and why they care," Francona said. ... Pedroia, who shaved off most of his hair today, has a very different perspective on his second opener than he did on his first. "I was nervous," Pedroia said, about the first game of his rookie season. "I remember my first at-bat, I hit a ball down the line and got thrown out by 30 feet at second. If I get a hit I'll definitely look in the outfield to see if he picked up the ball."